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Monday, May 16, 2022

ISO show exhibits Middlebury's global story

To top off an incredible carnival filled with food and games from across the globe, the International Students’ Organization (ISO) organized a showcase packed with performances highlighting the vibrancy of cultural diversity. 

The week’s festivities were all part of the ISO Carnival, a celebration of student diversity and the melting pot of culture on campus. The carnival was sponsored by a host of cultural student organizations, including Project Pengyou, South Asian Student Association (SASA) and Korean American Student Association (KASA). Throughout the week, students partook in activities ranging from experimenting with Chinese calligraphy to visiting the KASA x ISO market, which served Korean delicacies. Culminating in the showcase on Saturday, Nov. 16, students joined together to cultivate a wonderfully diverse range of culturally invigorating performances.

The show opened with a quirky narrative voiced by Warrd Nour ’23, Arthur Araripe ’22.5 and Nhi Do ’22, who zipped through a time machine, traversing the globe in confusion as they were faced with performance after performance from different destinations. The narration — or, “flimsy plot,” as Arthur quipped, to the audience’s enjoyment — playfully investigated the diversity of culture as we seek to fit ourselves in a puzzle of interwoven identities.

In the wide variety of performances, each drew the audience in further. Beginning the showcase with an interpretation by Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) of traditional Vietnamese dance, students circled the stage as they gracefully waved fluttery, bright fans, coming together in a gentle take on youth. The theme of community came together especially well throughout the showcase — most performances were group dances that celebrated and amplified the ambience of any given identity onstage. 

Dancers performed a Ukrainian dance in traditional attire.

Large dance numbers definitely amped up the mood. UMOJA, Middlebury’s African Student Organization, livened up the stage wonderfully as bright, bouncy music worked in sync with students who came together in an energetically choreographed group dance. The energy paralleled that of the Pakistan dance, Midd Masti’s Bollywood and Kollywood dance, or the Hopak, where cultural vitality was truly amplified in the music, colors and large community spirit. South East Asian Society’s (SEAS) TraditionalxHipHop dance was similar in some respects as well, where the group melded together traditional dances with more modern sequences, much like Soran Bushi did. The similarities and discernible differences between all performances joined the audience and dancers together cohesively, unifying all.

The show fluctuated between lively dances, beautiful solos and slow pieces. Transporting students to Europe and Asia, the audience heard a passionate interpretation of Chopin’s Nocturne No. 1 by Scott Li ’23 before cheering on the KASA in “KASA GoGo!” where a take on BTS’ song worked to hype up the crowd. Hopping from one nation to another, following the performance was Kexin Tang ’22 performing on the Guzheng, a traditional Chinese folk instrument. With a piece highlighting the technical complexity and beauty of its music, Tang brought forth an immersive experience as audiences were plunged into her impressive rendition. 

Among the countless expressive pieces throughout the program, the crowd was especially moved by Muévete Jevi as their program brought to us the Bachata and Reggae dances, sensual and energetic pieces that made sure to shift the atmosphere with cool lighting effects and passionate music. “BSU Steps Up” provided a similar energy in atmospheric group dance, where students created impressive rhythm themselves, clapping and stomping as the mood amplified, all the while interspersing their sequences with comedic narration through a drill sergeant.

This weekend, ISO truly worked to unify all students across different backgrounds and the efforts definitely paid off — not only was the show stunning, but all performances and collaborations also provided everyone with a holistic perspective of culture around the world. Be it alone or together, through dance or through song, we’re here to discover more of this unraveling global story. As per the words of Nour in the final moments to close the show, “Whoosh!” And we’re off again.